Personal Injury Solicitors Accuse Insurers of Bullying Accident Victims
It is natural for the victims of road traffic accidents to be left shaken and upset for a considerable time after such incidents have occurred. It is perhaps even more understandable that victims respond to accidents as if they are governed by some unseen force. Indeed, many people who have been involved in road traffic accidents follow the conventional path of exchanging insurance details, contacting the police if necessary and then notifying their insurance companies forthwith. Yet, the general consensus among personal injury solicitors is that insurance companies should only ever be contacted after professional legal advice is sought. The reason why legal advice should be sought before accident victims contact their insurers has been highlighted by solicitors this week following the recent Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) dinner.
At the dinner, the APIL President, Amanda Stevens, claimed that insurance companies had a nasty habit of forcing claimants into early settlements – a policy that ought to be addressed by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). Ms Stevens illustrated the extent of the problem faced by personal injury solicitors and accident victims by detailing a case involving a woman who had suffered an injury in a road traffic accident. According to Ms Stevens, the woman was offered an immediate settlement of £1,000 if she agreed not to seek legal representation – an offer that was swiftly rejected. Following this, the insurance company increased their offer to £1,700 but insisted that such a sum would only be payable without the intervention of lawyers who are specialised in dealing with accident claims.
It is arguably the case that most people in the aforementioned woman’s shoes would have considered the insurer’s offer very carefully; however, this second and final offer was rejected. Ms Stevens advised that, after seeking legal representation, the woman was awarded compensation in the region of £10,000 – roughly 1,000 per cent more than the original offer. Clearly, the reason why insurance companies try to persuade claimants to settle early is motivated by financial concerns. Insurers are all too aware that solicitors dealing with accident claims will fight for the maximum compensation available in the majority of cases, so insurers have little to lose by bullying victims before their claims reach court.
Simon Shaw, a solicitor based in the North West of England, claimed that his firm receives regular complaints about insurance companies. Mr Shaw said: “On a daily basis we hear from our new clients that they have already been approached by insurance companies employing hard-sell tactics to dissuade them from seeking legal advice”. Mr Shaw added: “Furthermore, some insurance companies are now employing agents whose job it is to constantly harass and bully claimants who have already started the legal process. Insurers are also now offering cleverly marketed ‘settle early’ policies and even offering to pay for physiotherapy treatment. All of this is in a bid to prevent people obtaining a settlement for injuries in line with the law of the land”.